Land in Rushmere St Andrew has asset of community value status stripped on appeal

Rushmere appeal land at 155 The Street

Rushmere appeal land at 155 The Street - Credit: Archant

A piece of open land listed as an asset of community value in a Suffolk village last year has had the status removed on appeal.

The site, adjacent to 155 The Street in Rushmere St Andrew, has been the subject of much debate in the village over the past two years since a planning application to build 14 homes there was submitted by a consortium of charities.

Despite Suffolk Coastal District Council refusing the scheme, the development was allowed on appeal, prompting a vigorous campaign by Save Our Rushmere’s Rural Identity (SORRI), Save Our County Spaces (SOCS) and other groups to save the land, owned by Withers Trust Corporation Limited (Witco).

The groups claimed the land was used by the community for growing fruit and vegetables and for the keeping of bees, while some commemorative trees have been planted in memory of loved ones at the site, including for Ipswich soldier Aaron McClure, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

In January, the campaign groups discovered that a High Court case they mounted against the housing development had been unsuccessful and, last week, were dealt the news that the site was to have its status as an asset of community value removed following an appeal launched by the landowner.

The decision was made despite a silent protest by village residents in a bid to protect the land from development when council officers visited ahead of the appeal hearing last month.

However, Arthur Charvonia, strategic director at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said when concluding the appeal that the status should not have been given and had been made “in error” by the council.

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He said: “My decision on this review is that the initial decision taken on behalf of the council to include this land in its list of assets of community value was in error.

“This land should not have been included in the list, and the consequence of my determination is that the land concerned will be removed from the list.”

A spokesman for the council said: “An intrinsic part of this process is that there is a right of appeal. In this case, the landowner appealed against the decision to list the land as an asset of community value.

“The decision was then reviewed, taking into account the points made by the owner, and the appeal was upheld.

“The appeal process is there to allow for this type of review and was properly followed by the council.”

A spokesman for Witco said: “Unfortunately the listing of the land as an asset of community value took place without informing Witco.

“Witco then received legal advice that the listing had been granted unlawfully.

“We are pleased with the council’s decision, which vindicates the advice that the listing was not lawful nor a proper step.

“We are now considering next steps for the sale of the land.”

Anyone wishing to raise concerns about a memorial tree planted at the site should write to Paul Hewitt, Witco, 16 Old Bailey, London, EC4M 7EG, giving details of the tree in question and their contact details.